Bellevue to study light-rail route
A week after Bellevue's City Council listened to proposed budget cuts from its city manager, it voted 3-2 to spend about $670,000 to study a new East Link light-rail route across Mercer Slough Nature Park.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A week after Bellevue's City Council listened to proposed budget cuts from its city manager, it voted 3-2 to spend about $670,000 to study a new East Link light-rail route across Mercer Nature Park.
The alignment — to be studied independently of Sound Transit — is dubbed "B7-Revised," and would stop at a station near the point where Bellevue Way meets Interstate 90, south of the current South Bellevue Park-and-Ride. It would head east across the Mercer Slough wetlands parallel to I-90, zip north on the BNSF Railway and then head north on 118th Avenue Southeast.
Absent Monday night were Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee and Councilmember John Chelminiak, who is recuperating after being mauled by a bear.
Councilmember Jennifer Robertson termed the study route "an optimized B7."
"We want to do it right. ... To me it's worth taking the time to see if we can get it just right."
Bellevue will have to move quickly to try to catch up with Sound Transit, which released its first environmental-impact statements on Bellevue light-rail choices at the end of 2008. The regional transit agency says it already has completed 15 percent of the engineering for its preferred alignment on Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast, and it expects to have finished 30 percent by the end of the year.
The new design work the Bellevue council decided to undertake is expected to take six to seven months and will complete about 5 percent of the engineering.
Sound Transit, which has the final say on the Bellevue route, already has chosen a preferred alignment for South Bellevue that jogs off I-90 onto Bellevue Way and heads north via 112th Avenue Southeast. The route was picked, in part, because it is cheaper than other routes and despite objections from the City Council, which endorsed a line similar to the one it voted to study Monday.
Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who also sits on the Sound Transit board, voted against the motion. She said arguments that the revised alignment would protect neighborhoods — the revised line would steer light-rail trains away from powerful South Bellevue neighborhoods including Surrey Downs — were "offensive" to neighborhoods like Mercer Slough and Enatai, which would be impacted by this revised line.
"It's really offensive to continue to treat 118th and South Enatai as if they don't exist," she said.
Balducci also said she was concerned about the money the council would spend engineering the line during a time of budget cuts.
The council still needs to figure out how it will pay for the study; whatever it decides, the money must come from the capital-improvement budget. City Manager Steve Sarkozy told the council last week that the city needs to reduce the $300 million, seven-year capital budget by about $100 million, in addition to cutting $11 million from its operating budget.
Councilmember Kevin Wallace, who voted in favor of the study, said that the staff-prepared proposal was more work than he thought necessary to get estimates on ridership, cost and a map, but that the current Sound Transit light-rail route was unacceptable.
"We can't get there on 112th," he said. "You can't put rail next to a single-family neighborhood. ... That's the purpose of the scope of this work."
Councilmember Grant Degginger, who also voted against the motion, said the council needs to focus on funding a downtown tunnel.
"We're not spending any time on the tunnel," Degginger said. "I have very deep concerns."
Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.